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Friday, 25 April 2014

Let’s take a close look at that Buhari-Tinubu presidential ticket

A recent front page banner headline of a major national newspaper titled, “APC Inches Towards a Buhari – Tinubu Presidential Ticket”, elicited comments not surprisingly from a few disgruntled elite. The crux of their argument was that in a multi-religious country like Nigeria, to present two persons from the same religious group for the office of the president and his vice was unacceptable. Thanks to Karl Marx, we have always known that if you want to deceive the people tell them about religion. But the level of frustration in Nigeria has risen so high that the masses can no longer be deceived by politicians.

When I was in the university, one of my lecturers Epiphany Azinge, oven-fresh from the London School of Economics with a P.H.D. in Law had insisted in many of his lectures that it was better to present a weak argument strongly than to present a strong argument weakly. In the present discussion, Azinge did not imagine a third scenario where a weak argument would also be presented weakly.

The travesty of a few arguments I have heard against this potential ticket is that they are both Muslims. This lame argument is further worsened by another to the effect that since the terrorist group Boko Haram is on the rampage, putting two Muslim candidates on the ballot would be rejected by Christians. When reminded that in the 1993 June 12 Presidential elections both M. K. O. Abiola and his Vice Babagana Kingibe showed by their victory that ordinary Nigerians who are in the majority unlike the elite are not interested in ethnicity and religion but a good government that would provide basic amenities like pipe borne water, electricity, good roads, houses, etc, they are quick to point out that those days are gone.

Rev. Father Mathew Hassan Kukah the Lord Bishop of Sokoto Catholic Diocese in most of his public interventions has maintained that part of the problem of Nigeria can be traced to an intellectually and morally bankrupt elite that encourages the accessing of power and privileges only on the basis of religion and ethnicity and not merit and competence. I believe in meritocracy and I am against mediocrity and favouritism in public office because they retard national development and make lives of the citizens miserable.

I had wanted those who are against the ticket to advance cogent reasons why the duo would not be acceptable to the electorate than make a mere appeal to religious sentiment. It was perhaps for this religious sentiment that Buhari in 2011 elections picked a Christian cleric as his vice presidential candidate. However, any objective political observer would quickly admit that the respected Pastor Tunde Bakare being on the ballot hardly made any impression on the Christian electorate throughout the country. I should have thought that at the crossroads where Nigeria is today, the only consideration for public office would be to elect a leader or leaders who can solve the key challenges confronting the nation, which includes, but not limited to mass poverty, unemployment, infrastructure deficit and corruption amongst others. I would have gladly welcomed a critique of both Buhari and Tinubu. Such a review would have shown that Buhari was reported to be autocratic as a military Head of State. On the converse his supporters would have argued that under a constitutional democracy, the parliament, the judiciary and the media are there to effectively check the excesses of any president. Besides they would have argued that Buhari is also perceived by a majority of Nigerians as being honest, disciplined and patriotic. Even till today, 30 years after, people still talk about his fight against corruption and his War Against Indiscipline (W.A.I.) program. One of his enduring legacies includes the monthly sanitation exercise which many governors have adopted in their states.

On the side of Tinubu, even his worst enemies would concede that he is a rare and unique political leader. By 1999 when he assumed office as governor, many roads in Lagos were routinely blocked with refuse leading to traffic gridlock. With a rejuvenated Lagos State Waste Management Agency (LAWMA), Lagos improved dramatically into a clean city. He also introduced Lagos State Transport Management Authority (LASTMA) to address the chaotic traffic situation in Lagos State. The Kick Against Indiscipline (K.A.I.) agency has helped to reduce environmental degradation caused by lawless street traders, etc. He also introduced the Bus Rapid Transport (B.R.T.) system that has made public transportation much better than the days when the ubiquitous “Molue” held sway. He also addressed security issues through the establishment of the Rapid Response Squad (RRS). I do not intend to go into his achievements in road construction, housing, health and public education where he started paying West African Examination Council (W.A.E.C.) and National Examination Council (NECO) fees in pubic school for Senior Secondary School Certificate Students. Nor do I want to talk about his free eye diagnosis, treatment and free eye glasses to Lagosians, etc. I have only been dragged into these examples to show that performance has nothing to do with a person’s religion and to buttress that these services provided by Tinubu were enjoyed by both Christians and Muslims alike without discrimination.

Therefore, it beggars the question for anybody to suggest that these type of exemplary leaders should be disqualified from contesting elections simply because they belong to a certain religion. Of course, both men have their own flip sides which can be discussed on the balance by analysts. For top confidential reasons, details of which I am precluded from disclosing here, the Buhari/Tinubu ticket remains the best option for the A.P.C. to wrest power from the Peoples Democratic Party (P.D.P.) or make a good show at the elections.

It is for the same reason that I see nothing fundamentally wrong with the Buhari/Tinubu ticket that I criticize those who say that President Goodluck Jonathan should not contest the 2015 elections simply because he is from a perceived minority tribe or because he is perceived as coming from the Old Eastern Nigeria or better still that he disrupted the turn of Northerners in the shadowy P.D.P. zoning arrangement to continue with the President Umaru Yaradua’s tenure after he died. If President Jonathan provides dams for irrigation, electricity and drinking water in the north, will the Muslims or northerners refuse to enjoy it simply because it was built by a Christian or a person from the South-South geo-political region? Why do Nigerians use cars, clothes, shoes, bags and eat food imported from Asia, America and Europe without first inquiring whether the manufacturers or producers practice Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Shintoism, Judaism or are even Atheists?

Finally, when a much acclaimed Governor Godswill Akpabio provides social amenities to the residents of Akwa Ibom, I do not think Muslims who live there would refuse to enjoy them because Akpabio is a Christian. Likewise, when a hardworking Governor Adams Oshiomhole delivers the dividends of democracy to Edo residents, I do not think that anybody would first try to ascertain his religion before accessing and enjoying them.

In conclusion, the way we talk about tribe and religion in Nigeria, it would appear that citizens of other countries do not have ethnic nationalities or practice any religion. The United States of America, Britain and many Asian countries all have people of different ethnic nationalities and religion but they have put merit and equality before the law first, hence the progress of their different countries. Let candidates jostling for public offices in Nigeria tell us about their achievements, antecedents and manifestoes and not deceive the people with the Bible or Koran!

- This Best Outside Opinion was written byAham Njoku

Daily Independent

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